False Note – Joss Jaffe Uncovers Empty Political ‘Promises’ with Mykal Rose

Joss Jaffe unearths political fallacies on “Promises,” with reggae legend Mykal Rose. Photo – Kim Jae Yoon

For Joss Jaffe, today’s global political climate runs rampant with false promises.

The Oakland, California world music singer-songwriter and multi-instrumentalist shares this widely held notion in his latest reggae-infused single, “Promises,” with Mykal Rose.

“Ultimately, I think politics is always divisive. Peter Tosh would call it ‘politricks.’ But yes, this period in time has been especially unprecedented. Although I do not call out Trump by name in this song and take the approach of an old-school reggae song, where we speak in metaphors and allegory stories, clearly it references the cascade of lies and falsehoods that seem to never end,” Jaffe said.

“However, yes, the song also speaks to the timeless, and sadly, seemingly ever relevant problems this poor type of leadership brings, and it’s not just limited to the U.S.”

Throughout “Promises,” Jaffe and Rose quickly unstitch the increasing fallacies Trump and other controversial political figures continually weave into society’s fraying fabric. Vibrant horns, thumping drums, bouncy bass, breezy synths, spirited organ and peppy electric guitar seamlessly undo each tumultuous thread.

Rose eagerly chants, “Promises are a comfort to a fool/All they wanna give is promises/We know the golden rule/Yet they wanna use you like a footstool.” In response, Jaffe soulfully sings, “Step on you to reach that goal/And cast you aside when you played your role/Promises that keep on saying/But then you look at them and see they’d never change.”

“My vision for this song is something that’s uplifting and triumphant over adversity. Something that rises above the current moment, however difficult it is, and gets back in touch with the universal consciousness,” Jaffe said.

With honest, reflective lyrics and a hypnotic reggae sway, Jaffe and Rose triumph with “Promises” as a fitting theme song for our turbulent political and social times. The track serves as the duo’s second dynamic collaboration since the divine, glistening “Elohim” with Shimshai in 2015 for Jaffe’s Dub Mantra Sangha album.

“Mykal Rose has always been one of my longtime heroes of reggae music. We have a mutual friend named Siah who is his guitar player and produces some of his songs. Mykal is a true legend; rocksteady in the studio and always pushing everyone to capture their best possible take. It was a true blessing,” Jaffe said.

Continue reading “False Note – Joss Jaffe Uncovers Empty Political ‘Promises’ with Mykal Rose”

Sea Change – LovelyOcean Makes Refreshing Hip-Hop Waves on New ‘Forever’ Album

LovelyOcean gets introspective on her debut album, “Forever.” Photo courtesy of Golden Poppy

For LovelyOcean, the right words bring a welcome songwriting sea change.

The Los Angeles hip-hop singer-songwriter poetically shares her innermost thoughts about authenticity, self-awareness, passion and growth on her vintage-inspired debut album, LovelyOcean Forever, which dropped Aug. 14 via all streaming platforms.

Forever started off with the idea of manifesting how I wanted my 2020 to go. I wanted to speak my wishes into existence through music. Words are some of our most powerful forms of manifestation. The themes in this album just came naturally since they’re real experiences,” she said.

LovelyOcean beautifully turns the hip-hop tide through eight reflective tracks infused with shiny synths, slow jams, catchy rhymes, euphoric beats and palpitating electronic percussion. Forever serves as a modern underground mixtape to inspire emerging and established female hip-hop artists looking for a new musical shoreline.

It’s the type of cassette artists would pass back and forth to create a stronger sense of camaraderie, collaboration and community. The exquisite “Forever (Intro)” sets an ideal old-school tone as the mixtape instantly clicks into a worn boombox and compelling skits from “The Maury Povich Show” are interspersed throughout the brief track.

Quiet, thoughtful piano echoes LovelyOcean’s introversion and peaceful presence as she reflects, “I could try to be louder or extroverted, but there’s beauty in my silence. From my silence comes observation, awareness, a story, a song, a forever.”

“I want to say that I started writing in February of this year, but once quarantine started I put everything on pause because I was super uninspired. One day I woke up, listened to two beats and then just started writing. All in all, it took three months to get everything written, recorded and edited. We converted a closet in the living room into our studio so every track recorded was in the closet,” LovelyOcean said.

Continue reading “Sea Change – LovelyOcean Makes Refreshing Hip-Hop Waves on New ‘Forever’ Album”

Pieces of the Puzzle – Marcio Hendrik Makes Sonic Connections for Film Scores, Soundtracks

As a longtime musician, Marcio Hendrik composes film scores and soundtracks through Artigo Audio in Rio. Photo courtesy of Marcio Hendrik

Marcio Hendrik relishes solving complex sonic puzzles.

The Rio de Janeiro guitarist-bassist-producer strategically connects discrete audio pieces to create captivating film scores and soundtracks through Artigo Audio.

Together, those emerging instrumentals unfold a hidden classic-meets-alt-rock world filled with enticing people, places and experiences. With limitless possibilities and choose-your-own-adventure storylines, listeners travel to an undiscovered, intergalactic dimension, a drug-infested Edinburgh and a nocturnal-inspired Hollywood.

“I like to dismantle all the pieces that I put together, like a puzzle, and then dismantle them again to make the music neat and clear,” Hendrik said.

For his latest score, the forceful, driving “Russian Dance” jumps to hyperspace as charging, vibrant electric guitars, booming drums, throbbing bass and crashing cymbals provide a Black Sabbath-esque space jam.

Next, listeners instantly shift to Scotland as “Skag Boys” propels into an alt-punk rock frenzy with swift, crunchy electric guitars, pounding drums, banging cymbals and driving bass in an Irvine Welsh-like heroine culture.

After sonically leaving the U.K., a third Hendrik stop includes a late-night stroll down Sunset Boulevard on “Hollywood Moon” as bluesy, fuzzy electric guitars, shimmering cymbals, delicate drums and thoughtful bass echo along the concrete jungle.

“I have an inclination for making soundtracks, especially because Hollywood has this feel of a classic place. If you see the buildings, it looks like you’re in the ‘50s, and the people you see on the street are totally different. It’s like you’re in a time warp,” said Hendrik, who studied audio engineering abroad at Los Angeles’ Musicians Institute in 2016.

“I put myself in the shoes of somebody who’s delusional walking around Hollywood searching for something that may fulfill their delusion. Sometimes I would go to Jameson’s Irish Pub, and if I got loaded, I would leave the whiskey bar and start walking around Hollywood to talk to everybody.”

Hollywood Moon” also features Hendrik’s mesmerizing instrumental collaboration with Ania, a Los Angeles heavy metal singer-songwriter and guitar virtuoso, who beautifully shreds throughout the haunting psych rock track.

“I found her online during social isolation. I was building my website for my production company, and I started reaching out to people saying, ‘Hey, do you want to produce or record something?’” he said.

“I was on Facebook, and I added Ania because I saw she attended the same school I that did in Hollywood. After we had a conversation, I realized she was just like me, a musician who wanted to record. It was amazing because she brought me results within a week.”

Continue reading “Pieces of the Puzzle – Marcio Hendrik Makes Sonic Connections for Film Scores, Soundtracks”

Happy Accidents – Torrey Mercer Celebrates Living in Disarray on Latest ‘This is Fine’ Single

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Last year, Torrey Mercer unknowingly penned a fitting anthem for 2020.

The Los Angeles pop singer-songwriter co-wrote a peppy, ironic new track, “This is Fine,” about perpetually living in disarray with pop-rock singer-songwriter and producer Una Jensen.

“We wrote this in December of 2019, which is wild to think about, considering the times we are in now. It was meant to be a song about feeling like a ‘hot mess,’ little did we know. The song is meant to be a pick-me-up in some hard times, which I hope it can be for others during the times we find ourselves in,” said Mercer, who released the track in May.

Mercer beautifully exposes that frustrating, turbulent world throughout “This is Fine,” which fuses gleaming acoustic strums, bouncy synths, thumping bass and striking electronic drums in a poppy, cheeky ode to bad days. She nonchalantly sings, “My bank account just froze/Bedroom full of dirty clothes/Of course I stubbed my toe/What day is my cycle/There it goes.”

“It was inspired by a meme we are both familiar with on the Internet originally created by KC Green. The original artist gave us permission, and we recreated his art for the album art of the song, which was fun. The song has lots of quirky details in it, which started with both of us listing things that we were feeling at the time,” Mercer said.

“We wrote this song in its entirety in about two and a half hours, all in one sitting. And we spent a few weeks nailing down final vocals, production and mixing. It was actually a total fluke we wrote this song before the current moment we are facing in the world, and when everything started happening, I realized it might be the perfect moment for this song. I’m glad we got to release it.”

Boys/Girls

This is Fine” isn’t the only shiny, effervescent new material Mercer has dropped this year. In February, she released Boys/Girls, a vibrant, inspirational six-track EP filled with bisexual anthems, misogynistic tales, patriarchal challenges, changing relationships, inner revelations and personal empowerment.

“This EP was meant to be a liberation for me as a woman and as a bisexual. In the music industry, there’s a lot of pressure to perform a version of yourself that is more likeable to others. This project was about taking the duct tape off my own mouth and embracing what makes me different and outspoken,” she said.

Continue reading “Happy Accidents – Torrey Mercer Celebrates Living in Disarray on Latest ‘This is Fine’ Single”

Atomic Structure – Mason Summit Emits Positive Emotional Charge on New ‘Negative Space’ Album

Mason Summit’s “Negative Space” album brings listeners one step closer to better versions of themselves.

Mason Summit emits an positive electrifying charge on Negative Space.

The Los Angeles indie folk singer-songwriter quickly attracts the “nano” emotions buried deep within the atomic structure of our subconscious on his latest album.

Out Friday via all streaming platforms, Negative Space reveals a microcosm of inner thoughts and deep revelations about failed relationships, reluctant confidants, unspoken feelings, hidden anxieties, turbulent endings, personal resignations, unexpected transitions and closed chapters.

“The overarching themes include a lot of regret and a lot of trepidation until we get to ‘Round January.’ Some of the songs are more personal in that sense than others, and others were more conceptual like ‘Cause for Concern,’ which I had thought of as an album name initially. I thought, ‘People are going to hear these songs, and they’re going to be concerned about my well-being,’” Summit said.

Summit poignantly addresses that fractured sense of well-being throughout Negative Space’s raw, honest 10 tracks. Despite a barrage of dark emotions and difficult experiences, each track moves Summit and listeners one step closer to stronger, wiser and better versions of themselves. Fittingly, Negative Space is akin to chronicling years of internal growth and self-acceptance in a 30-minute span.

“Most of the songs were written in a songwriting class at USC. Some of those came from specific prompts like ‘Round January.’ I probably wouldn’t have written that song had it not been for the prompt,” said Summit, who studied songwriting and graduated from the University of Southern California (USC) in May.

“Obviously, you always want them to sound personal, like on ‘Doomed from the Start.’ For that song, I was thinking about my first serious relationship, which started in high school, and how it didn’t last because it was all about learning how to be in a relationship.”

Continue reading “Atomic Structure – Mason Summit Emits Positive Emotional Charge on New ‘Negative Space’ Album”

March ‘Stratton Playlist’ Spotlight – Sunny State Releases New ‘Human’ Single to Unify Quarantined Fans

Sunny State’s latest single, “Human,” reminds people about being compassionate and unified during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Sunny State understands the concept of “Human” nature.

In their latest single, “Human,” the San Jose, Calif., reggae fusion sextet eloquently reminds people about being compassionate and unified during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“The whole idea of the song is that we’re all human, and we all have our struggles. We’re all alone in this, but our solitude in it actually brings us together and unifies us because we’re all going through the same struggle right now,” said Chris Reed, Sunny State’s lead vocalist, ukulelist and guitarist.

Released Friday and featured as part of this month’s “The Stratton Playlist,” “Human” blends uplifting ukulele, brilliant electric guitar, deep bass, rhythmic bongo slaps and intermittent drum taps into a radiating, inspirational anthem for society’s growing battle against the coronavirus.

Along with Sunny State’s vibrant instrumentation, Reed beautifully sings, “I wanna be the best version of me/Rise with a smile, not need the caffeine/Embracing the moment, not letting it weigh me down/Remembering life’s a gift with a beautiful crown/We’re just human.”

While timely and relevant, “Human” wasn’t initially meant to be Sunny State’s third and latest single from their upcoming debut album. The band’s guitarist, Julian, encouraged Reed to release the single early as way to bring peace, comfort and solidarity to their fans.

“All this COVID-19 stuff had just happened. Everyone was going on lockdown, and I was just watching all these videos of people in Italy. The next day, I was talking to Julian, and he mentioned again how much he liked ‘Human,’” Reed said.

“I asked him, ‘Do you think it’s crazy to release ‘Human’ instead as a single? I feel like it’s a very honest and a self-reflective time.’ He said, ‘No, I think it’s a great idea. We’re all absolutely self-reflective, and we’re going to be doing this for a while.’”

The band also released a new live acoustic performance for “Human” today via Facebook and Instagram. It features Tyler (guitar), James (percussion), Freddie (bass), Roman (keys), Julian and Reed each performing in their individual quarantines. Each member is featured on screen via separate feeds that are brought and recorded together.

Over the next month, Sunny State will continue their “together apart” approach while recording their full-length debut album, which will drop later this year. Reed and his bandmates have been emailing files back and forth to polish and finalize the untitled album’s remaining tracks.

Since forming the band in 2019, Sunny State has released two other powerful singles, the romantic ode to lifelong love, “When You Know,” and the freedom and stewardship anthem, “Solutions.”

In addition to Sunny State, the March edition of “The Stratton Playlist” includes uplifting, groovy and memorable tracks from The Steve Taylor Three, The DayNites, Pajamas, Border Patrol, Ohly, Maggie Schneider, Meredith Shock and 24 more.

 

Soar with The Stratton Playlist – February 2020 Edition

The second sonic adventure for “The Stratton Playlist” is ready to soar.

This month’s playlist includes 28 fresh tracks from a spectrum of talented artists, including ATMIG, Ma Baker, Hello Forever, Ally Evenson and others. Featured artists hail from Michigan, New York, California and New Jersey.

It’s part of our ongoing multi-genre journey to bring the best of our discoveries.

Get ready to enjoy some real treasures.

Tragic Hero – The Gutter Daisies Tackle Public Perception of Mental Illness, Depression on ‘Celebrity Suicide’ Single

The Gutter Daisies call out society and the media for an ongoing obsession with public figures experiencing mental illness and depression on “Celebrity Suicide.”

With a raw, honest sound, The Gutter Daisies vigorously confront society’s deep fascination with a celebrity’s personal tragedy.

The Los Angeles pop-punk trio of Doug Rockwell (vocals, guitar), Miles Franco (bass) and Mike Diggs (drums) explodes with frustration about the public’s and the media’s treatment and exploitation of mental illness and depression on their latest single, “Celebrity Suicide.”

“We all grew up dealing with anxiety and depression. I feel like nowadays it’s even more common because of social media. It can be a great platform, but it’s also an extremely vain one that has created a false reality that’s unfortunately become an extension of actuality. It’s a place where everyone sees other people’s ‘best of section’ and then automatically assumes their own lives will never be as glamorous,” Rockwell said.

Celebrity Suicide” opens with deep-tone, grungy guitars and quickly transforms into a rage-filled power protest as Rockwell angrily sings, “I wanna be like my idols/All fucked up in the brain/I could see it play out/Won’t play my songs while I’m around/Unless my life goes down the drain.”

“The same goes for the media. Paparazzi look for people’s weakest moments so they can sell that to media outlets so they can then bring in ratings. It’s all about making a fortune and not so much about the misfortune. ‘Celebrity Suicide’ is a song about just that with some sarcasm sprinkled on the wound,” Rockwell said.

Celebrity Suicide” is the first new track The Gutter Daisies have released since covering The Beastie Boys’ “Sabotage” in 2018. Their energetic banger of a cover nicely pays tribute to the legendary hip-hop and rap-rock trio’s 1994 classic.

“We were looking for a song to cover that everyone would know no matter who they were, but we didn’t want it to be something you’d hear a run-of-the-mill cover band playing at a local bar,” Rockwell said. “We also wanted it to represent us as a band. ‘Sabotage’ is pretty punk rock, and as soon as it was suggested, we knew we could make it our own without disrupting what the original song had already accomplished.”

Continue reading “Tragic Hero – The Gutter Daisies Tackle Public Perception of Mental Illness, Depression on ‘Celebrity Suicide’ Single”

Here Comes the Sun – Hello Forever Radiates Broad Spectrum of Sounds on ‘Whatever It Is’ Debut Album

Hello Forever emits an eclectic mix of sounds of their full length debut, “Whatever It Is,” out Friday.

Hello Forever brings eternal sunshine to musical minds.

The Los Angeles art pop collective brilliantly emits abundant ‘60s-infused rays of doo-wop, jazz, skiffle, R&B, classical and baroque rock throughout their sparkling 12-track, full-length debut, “Whatever It Is,” which drops Friday.

“It’s about acceptance and equanimity, and it’s about making peace with yourself,” said Samuel Joseph, Hello Forever’s lead vocalist. “It wasn’t a choice or decision. I find that when I try too critically to control the music, it doesn’t work out. The things that came through on the songs came on their own.”

Along with bandmates Gabe Stout, Andy Jimenez, Joey Briggs, Molly Pease, Anand Darsie and Jaron Crespi, Joseph spent 200 days in bedrooms and borrowed studios throughout Santa Monica and Castaic, Calif., to create and record elaborate arrangements for a sunny collection of concise pop songs.

“Some songs I wrote in five minutes and recorded the entirety in a single session. Other songs took a little longer than that,” he said. “I was doing everything I could to serve the creative process. It was awesome having the time and places where I could write and record these songs.”

Hello Forever’s scintillating “Whatever It Is” adventure starts with “Some Faith,” a two-minute head trip filled with high-tone energetic guitars, lush mash-ups of Beatles and Beach Boys-inspired harmonies and sticky pop melodies – “I saw you in the light for the first time/Heaven cried ‘open’ and rained down on me/It was love, it was love/Why’d it terrify me?”

“‘Some Faith’ is about trusting your feelings or at least learning to trust your feelings when you care about somebody,” said Joseph about the band’s first single and video.

Another heartwarming track includes “Anywhere is Everywhere” with upbeat Vampire Weekend a capella-like vocals intertwined with soaring sha-la-las – “I would love anyone just to feel it/And I won’t question who I’m loving/I won’t question who I’m loving/I’ll just love, just love, just love.” The track’s video also features Hello Forever painting blank canvases while gathering in the bright California hills. Continue reading “Here Comes the Sun – Hello Forever Radiates Broad Spectrum of Sounds on ‘Whatever It Is’ Debut Album”

Folk Visionaries – Alice Howe, Freebo to Perform Friday at Ann Arbor’s Black Crystal Cafe

Alice Howe will make her Black Crystal Cafe live debut Friday in Ann Arbor with Freebo. Photo by Robert M. Ring

With a new tour and full-length debut album, Alice Howe will bring her 2020 vision to Ann Arbor’s Black Crystal Café Friday.

The Boston singer-songwriter will make her first live appearance at the intimate 48-seat music club with world-renowned bassist Freebo, who’s performed with Bonnie Raitt, Ringo Starr, Neil Young, and Crosby, Stills & Nash.

“Freebo and I have been working together for the last three years. He produced my last record, ‘Visions,’ which came out in May of last year, and he and I have been touring together a lot. For this show, we’re billing it as he will be my special guest, so he’ll do an opening set, and then he’ll back me on the bass,” said Howe about her set with Freebo for Friday’s sold-out show.

“It’s really fun because I get to sing harmonies on his songs, and it’s a really collaborative thing that we’ve put together that just works out really well for both of us. We’re excited to take that to Black Crystal.”

Howe forged a fateful partnership with Freebo nearly four years ago at the Northeast Regional Folk Alliance Conference. After meeting and chatting with him, she went through her record collection at home and discovered his musical collaborations with Raitt, Young and a host of other rock legends.

“That was a very cool moment for me where I realized, ‘Wow, I’ve met somebody,’ and we had a lot in common as far as our taste in music and production styles and singing styles and all this stuff was so in line with each other,” Howe said. “I grew up listening to the era of music that he really came up under, so for me to meet somebody from that time was like, ‘Oh my god, I felt like he was sent to me.’”

Having Musical ‘Visions’

Those similarities quickly led Howe to enlist Freebo as her musical mentor, collaborator and producer for “Visions,” a 10-track, introspective folk-blues expedition filled with striking originals and smashing covers from Muddy Waters, Sam Cooke, Taj Mahal and Bob Dylan. It’s a gorgeous extension of her 2017 debut folk EP, “You’ve Been Away So Long.”

For “Visions,” Howe relocated from Boston to Bakersfield, Calif., to record her full-length debut with Freebo, Fuzzbee Morse (electric guitar), John “JT” Thomas (keys) and John Molo (percussion). In fact, her creative expedition begins with the nature-inspired “Twilight” and includes a much-needed Michigan winter sonic escape to a serene world dotted with dirt roads, sunlight, ocean and trees.

Continue reading “Folk Visionaries – Alice Howe, Freebo to Perform Friday at Ann Arbor’s Black Crystal Cafe”